Title: Classic Monsters Unleashed
Authors: 30 of “the biggest names in the genre” (according to Amazon)
Editor: James Aquilone
Genre: Horror Story Anthology
Rating: 3.5 of 5
Future Publication Date: July 12, 2022 (Thank you to the authors and publisher for a free eARC via NetGalley. This in no way affects the content of the review.)
Your enjoyment of this collection will hinge quite a bit on how much you know and appreciate classic monster stories, especially as they have been portrayed on the big screen. With most of the entries you need at least a passing knowledge of the original (or classic screen-adapted) version for the “unleashed” story to really make sense.
There is good variety in the monsters/creatures featured across the collection. I think that Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, and werewolves are the only ones to make multiple appearances with 2-3 apiece (pretty impressive in a collection of 29 stories).
That being said, most of the plots fell into just a handful of categories used in various combinations:
- Classic monster returns to cause more mayhem.
- Try to guess which monster this is about before the big reveal…
- Recast monster as misunderstood victim and/or hero as the villain.
- Gender swap characters.
- Engage in social commentary on gender or race.
I preferred the stories that built on the already-established characters rather than completely re-imagining them, but that’s just my personal taste.
Stylistically, this was a mixed bag. Some stories felt stilted, as if the author was just phoning it in and checking off the boxes needed to make a creature feature. Others demonstrated creativity and variety in language usage (including annoying but clever use of textspeak in Dacre Stoker’s offering). I would say that the well-written outnumber the “meh.”
Overall, this is worth a read if you are into classic monster horror. However, as with many bulky themed anthologies, you might want to take some time between stories so that they don’t start to sound repetitive.